Top 10 Fitness Trends
This article originally appeared in The American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal on 01/02/2023. View Original Article Here.
The annual ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® worldwide survey to determine industry trends by health and fitness professionals is now in its 17th consecutive year. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly made an impact on the 2021 survey and continued for 2022, but for 2023, some current trends are emerging whereas others are weakening because of the world’s recovery from the isolation caused by COVID-19. The #1 trend for 2023, as it was for 2022, is wearable technology. Home exercise gyms was #2 for 2022 but has dropped to #13 for 2023. Fitness programs for older adults will make a comeback in 2023, breaking the top 10 at #4. Functional fitness training, a popular form of exercise for the older adult, is the #5 trend for 2023.
Top 10 Fitness Trends
1. Wearable Technology. Wearable technology includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices and includes fitness and activity trackers that can monitor heart rate, calories, sitting time, sleep, and much more. Wearable technology has been the #1 trend after it was introduced on the survey in 2016, except for 2018 (#3) and 2021 (#2). These devices are used as a step counter and heart rate monitor, and can track body temperature, calories, sitting time, sleep time, and much more. Initially, there was a question of wearable technology accuracy, but these issues have seemed to be resolved. New innovations include blood pressure, oxygen saturation, body temperature, respiratory rate, and electrocardiogram.
2. Strength Training With Free Weights. Focusing on proper movement and lifting technique, this activity incorporates the use of barbells, dumbbells, and/or kettlebells to improve or maintain muscular fitness by manipulating repetitions, sets, tempo, load, and exercise selection to reach specific muscular fitness goals. Surveys conducted before 2021 included a category described as “strength training”. That description was determined to be too broad; therefore, strength training was redefined in 2020 in favor of the more specific strength training with free weights. Included in this category are free weights, barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, and medicine ball classes. Training with free weights debuted at #4 for 2020 and dropped to #8 for 2021, then #4 for 2022.
3. Body Weight Training. A combination of multiplane body weight and neuromotor movements with body weight as the primary resistance defines this trend. Body weight training uses minimal equipment and space, making it an inexpensive and functional way to exercise. Body weight training appeared for the first time on the trends survey in 2013 (at #3) and was #2 for 2017, #4 for 2018, and #5 for 2019 before dropping to #7 for 2020 and then rebounding to #3 for 2021, then to #8 for 2022. Although body weight training has been around a long time, it did not appear as a survey trend option before 2013 because it only became popular (as a defined trend) in gyms around the world within the last decade.
4. Fitness Programs for Older Adults. This is a trend that emphasizes and caters to the fitness needs of the baby boomer and older generations. People are living longer, working longer, and desiring to remain healthy and physically active throughout their life span. This trend is making a return after being in the top 10 in 2007 (the #2 trend) and dropping to #11 for 2017. In 2018, fitness programs for older adults was the #9 trend, #4 for 2019, #8 for 2020, #9 for 2021, and #11 in 2022. The baby boomers (and older generations) in general have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts do, and fitness clubs may be able to capitalize on this growing market. Changing the atmosphere (including lights and type of music) of gyms to be more older generation friendly during the traditional slow times of the day is the type of trend that seems to be catching on in commercial clubs.
5. Functional Fitness Training. Training to improve balance, coordination, functional strength, and endurance to improve activities of daily living. Exercise programs reflect actual activities someone might do during the day. Functional fitness first appeared on the survey in the #4 position in 2007 but fell to #8 in 2008 and #11 in 2009. It reappeared in the top 10 for 2010 at #7 and in 2011 as #9. In 2012, functional fitness was the #10 trend and ranked as high as #8 for 2014 but fell to #14 for 2021 and for 2022. This trend typically focuses on using strength training to improve essential balance, coordination, muscular strength, and endurance to improve activities of daily living typically for older adults but also in clinical populations.
6. Outdoor Activities. This trend allows for health and fitness professionals to offer more outdoor activities such as group walks, rides, or organized hiking. Activities can be short events, day-long events, or planned multiday excursions along with ECO challenges like stand-up paddleboards, kayaking, mountain biking, and backcountry hiking. Perhaps because of the COVID-19 restrictions, more outdoor activities have recently become popular. For 2021, outdoor activities ranked #4 and for 2022, it was #3. Participants meet in a local park, hiking area, or on a bike trail typically with a designated leader. This trend for health and fitness professionals to offer outdoor activities for their clients began in 2010. In that year, outdoor activities ranked #25 in the annual survey and in 2011, it ranked #27.
7. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). These exercise programs typically involve repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise (>80% heart rate max), combined with periods of rest. High-intensity interval training can be applied to a variety of exercise activities. Although a part of the survey as a possible trend before 2013 but not making the top 20, HIIT was #1 in the survey for 2014 and 2018 and remained in the top five each year between 2014 and 2021 (#5); however, for 2022, HIIT dropped out of the top five for the first time, to #7, and remains at #7 for 2023. There are a variety of HIIT formats including dumbbells, barbells, sprinting, cycling, bodyweight, and stair-climbing.
8. Exercise for Weight Loss. This trend incorporates weight loss programs with an exercise program. The coupling of physical activity and exercise training with diets and cooking classes may prove to have additional benefits. Perhaps because of the quarantine imposed by COVID-19 and resulting perceived (or real) weight gain, exercise for weight loss made a comeback in 2022 (#5). Most diet programs recommend including some form of an exercise program into the daily routine of caloric restriction, adding the caloric expenditure of physical activity into the equation. Exercise for weight loss programs has been a top 20 trend since the survey began. In 2009, exercise for weight loss ranked as low as #18 before regaining popularity through 2015. Starting in 2016, this trend began to move down the list to a low of #16 for 2021.
9. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals. Emphasis is placed on the importance of hiring certified health and fitness professionals who have completed educational programs and fully accredited health/fitness certifications. This trend debuted at #6 in 2019 then dropped to #10 for 2020 and was at #13 for both 2021 and 2022. The importance of hiring certified health and fitness professionals through educational programs and accredited certification programs has remained a steady trend. More certification programs have become accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, allowing employers easy access to certification validation through the United States Registry of Exercise Professionals and the International Confederation of Registers for Exercise Professionals. Some national certification organizations like ACSM are requiring graduation from a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Organizations accredited program to qualify.
10. Personal Training. Personal training includes goal setting, fitness assessment, and exercise programming with a trainer in one-on-one settings. Personal trainers provide exercise technique instruction, monitor improvement, and progress workouts with each client encounter and based on the client’s progress. One-on-one training continues to be a strong trend as the profession of personal training becomes more accessible online, in health clubs, in the home, and in work sites. Personal training includes fitness testing and goal setting with the trainer collaborating one-on-one with a client to prescribe workouts specific to his or her individual needs and goals. Since this survey was first published in 2006 (1), personal training has been a top 10 trend as high as #3 in 2008 and 2009, now dropping to #10 for 2023.